Why the European border regime is dysfunctional

Christian T. Jørgensen

Summary

Military-style
command centres, databases of millions of people, massive surveillance
through remote-controlled drones, billion-Euro research and national
procurement programmes. Far from the public eye, the governments of the
European Union are pursuing a weighty long-term plan to use technology
on a massive scale for the control of the European borders.

At their most recent summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, EU government
leaders even chose border security as their most important topic of
discussion. They deemed it important to “stop illegal migration” and
“protect our people’s security”, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said. She
saw it as a new “spirit of collaboration” in an otherwise rather divided
Europe.

But will the desired surveillance system serve its purpose? Will it
make Europe safer? We, Investigate Europe, a team of nine journalists
from eight different countries, have tried to find answers to those
questions. For two months, we have talked with over 200 border guards,
investigators, military personnel, police, law experts, researchers,
engineers, EU officials, doctors, municipal employees and politicians.

The results are alarming: for Europe’s new border control project in
the years leading up to 2020, six billion Euros will be needed from the
EU budget and about the same amount from the national budgets, with no
demonstrable benefits; the European Commission and the national
governments want to abolish fundamental privacy laws and store citizens’
personal data on a massive scale without judicial control; the European
Commission has directed its policy almost exclusively towards the
interests of the security and arms industry, and allows their
representatives to influence decisions and law-making processes despite
massive conflicts of interest in advisory boards.

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